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Employee Wellbeing Best Practices THRIVEx Workplace Wellbeing

Laurie Santos: Caring for employee mental health during tough times

Stress. Anxiety. Depression. These are just some of the hidden costs of COVID-19, impacting business and communities around the world. The extent of the damage is still to be calculated. And maybe we’re yet to see the worse. But the stats that are popping up are already alarming:

  • 37% of people in the UK (equal to around 19 million people) are now suffering from high anxiety1
  • According to a report in Australia, 45% of employees have suffered a mental health issue so far during COVID-192
  • There’s been a 20% increase in mental illness cases in India3

So it’s timely and fortunate that we were able to bring happiness expert and Yale professor, Dr. Laurie Santos, on board for THRIVEx to give her best tips and strategies to help employees cope with high stress and grief.After trauma, we don’t always end up worse off. Sometimes we end up better off…Tough times in our lives make us a little stronger and a little more resilient. – Dr. Laurie Santos This is certainly true and was reflected from the story of healthcare workers in Singapore. When researchers studied the impacts of COVID-19 on the mental health of nurses and physicians, they were quite surprised. Symptoms and diagnoses of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) were 3 times lower than the SARS outbreak they had experience a few years back4. What Dr. Laurie Santos also reminded us, was about the power of positivity. Especially during challenging times. It may be surprising to some to learn just how essential happiness and gratitude are to coping with stress and trauma. Dr. Santos dove into the psychology behind her top tips on happiness, including the ways it can influence our life circumstances, how it can inspire post-traumatic growth and build resilience, the importance of social connections and helping others, the transformative effects of mindfulness and why we need to maintain healthy habits in times of stress. Her favourite happiness exercise? Practising gratitude. A great way to start is to write down a few things you’re grateful for each day. 

We hear people talking about the new normal. We don’t know what that is yet. We must support that ever-changing environment right along with our workforce.

We’re still dealing with constant change and feelings of uncertainty as we continue to navigate through COVID-19. While the safety and physical health of employees are top of mind for organisations as they plan their return to the workplace, Laurie Santos reminded us how important it is to address and support the mental wellbeing of our people. Believe it or not, mental health starts with overall wellbeing and healthy habits. Lifestyle behaviours that support mental health include:

  • Social connection
  • Staying active
  • Managing stress
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Finding meaning & purpose
  • Getting quality sleep 

Many of us are struggling with falling asleep and staying asleep due to the stress of these last few months. Check out our Week 2 THRIVEx keynote Dr. Matthew Walker who shared his top sleep tips.

Healthcare workers are finding success with a wellbeing programme that places an additional focus on mindfulness, resilience and mental/emotional wellbeing, uses organisation-wide wellbeing challenges to engage and connect employees, provides opportunities for stability in an ever-changing world and supports them through these ongoing and rapid transitions.  

Learn how Virgin Pulse’s wellbeing programme can transform your employees’ mental health to create a happier, healthier workforce.

1. ‘Employers must act to restore their workforce’s wellbeing’, People Management, July 2020, ‘FlexCareers Annual Workplace Flexibility report 2020’, June 2020, ‘As India’s lockdown ends, a mental health crisis is just beginning’, World Economic Forum (May 2020), ‘Psychological Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Health Care Workers in Singapore’, April 2020,